Collective effort in the fight against kauri dieback disease
Since the kauri dieback pathogen Phytophthora agathidicidia was formally identified in 2009, communities, iwi, councils, scientists, researchers and government agencies have collectively been working hard to fight the disease and find new and better ways to protect kauri.
This effort continues across many fronts – including developing new science and research, introducing stronger regulations and undertaking practical initiatives on the ground.
Biosecurity New Zealand, a part of MPI, provides overall coordination of the collective effort to combat kauri dieback through the Kauri Dieback Programme. This role includes commissioning and sharing scientific research to support protection efforts, undertaking public education and consultation campaigns, conducting aerial surveillance, and developing regulatory tools such as Controlled Area Notices (CANs) and a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) to support our partners who do the work on the ground.
Responsibility for fighting the disease in our national parks, in regional parks and on other land lies with landowners and land administrators, such as the Department of Conservation, iwi, and regional and district councils. These agencies and groups also work in partnership with Biosecurity NZ and each other to ensure coordination of effort.
Communities in kauri lands are also heavily involved in these efforts and bring invaluable local knowledge and expertise, while scientists and researchers around the country and across the globe are looking for new ways to better understand and combat these destructive pathogens.
Check out a timeline of what the Kauri Dieback Programme has been up to.
What action has been taken to fight kauri dieback?
Science and research
As part of a wider suite of initiatives underway to combat kauri dieback, Biosecurity NZ and its partners in the programme continue to support finding scientific solutions to the disease. To date, these efforts include:
- Commissioning or co-funding more than 60 pieces of research, supported by more than $2 million in funding over the last three years.
- Recently completing five years’ worth of field trials exploring the effectiveness of phosphite injections (which boost the trees’ natural immunity) in juvenile kauri.
- Trees showing trunk lesions were successfully healed following treatment, providing enough information to start using phosphite as a tool in our forests.
- Results of these successful trials underpin other initiatives, such as the Kauri Rescue Project, funded by the National Science Challenge.
- The use of phosphite injections on larger mature trees and the use of trunk sprays is being explored.
- Further research into the use of temperature and alkaline-based tools to ‘deactivate’ or ‘kill’ the resting spore of the pathogen (which is the most difficult to kill) is ongoing.
- Building capability and exploring mātauranga Māori as a solution to kauri dieback remains embedded in the current programme strategy.
- The use of traditional Māori medicines (rongoa) to improve the health of kauri and its effectiveness in treating the disease is being explored.
- Research into determining whether non-kauri species can host the disease is being undertaken.
- The use of Cultural Health Indicators to determine the state of health of our kauri forests. As kaitiaki, mana whenua have been contracted to undertake monitoring for three years.
- Research into possible alternative treatments and the effectiveness of biological control products has been undertaken following lab trials, and we are currently assessing the results and determining next steps.
- The Healthy Trees, Healthy Future Programme is a six year initiative aimed at finding management tools. One of the goals is to find genetic resistance or tolerance of kauri towards the disease. Research is continuing.
In addition to the science directly undertaken by the programme, the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has also been providing funding of approximately $1.9 million per year for science and research, plus there have been contributions from other organisations, such as universities and Crown Research Institutes.
Find out more about kauri dieback science and research here.
Aerial surveys and mapping tools
- Funding has allowed for more than three million hectares to be aerial surveyed in the last three years.
- This has identified 450 kauri sites across Northland, Auckland and the Waikato for potential further investigation.
- Biosecurity NZ are working with DOC and regional councils to prioritise sites. ‘Ground-truthing’ visits to verify the presence of kauri dieback disease are underway.
- Further aerial surveys are being undertaken as part of the ongoing efforts to manage kauri dieback.
- Research is underway to find a faster survey tool. This includes trialling remote sensing techniques, using high resolution satellite imagery, Lidar and hyper-spectral imagery.
- Continuing to provide best practice guidelines and tools. Material to assist forest users, arborists, earthwork contractors, vehicle operators and others has already been developed.
- Work to improve the design of cleaning stations alongside programme partners is continuing, following field trials.
- A geo-database identifying the natural locations of kauri and other key information to help track the disease has been established.
- Implementing and undertaking ongoing monitoring of CANs in the Waitākere and Hunua Ranges, in support of Auckland Council’s efforts to manage kauri dieback.
- Development of a National Pest Management Plan is underway, which is the strongest biosecurity legislation to support fighting the disease.
Consultation and education
- An education campaign to raise awareness of kauri dieback is ongoing, including the core message encouraging people to clean footwear and equipment.
- Two further rounds of consultation with the public are planned for this year to help inform development of the National Pest Management Plan.
- A biosecurity hygiene training framework to help people working in natural environments is being developed.
- The kauri dieback website and social media channels provide a platform to keep people updated about continuing programme activity.
Independent advice and expertise
- The Kauri Dieback Governance Group recently established an Independent Panel to provide oversight and strategic advice into the development of the National Pest Management Plan.
- A Kauri Dieback Strategic Science Advisory Group has been formed and continues to meet and provide high level scientific advice to the Programme.
What is the Department of Conservation’s role in fighting kauri dieback?
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is a key partner in the Kauri Dieback Programme. It has responsibility for managing the disease on conservation land, and works closely with iwi and other programme partners to protect kauri.
In addition to DOC’s work across other kauri lands, a particular focus is on the Waipoua Forest in Northland, home of Tāne Mahuta and a number of other iconic trees.
What action is being taken by DOC and iwi in the Waipoua Forest?
While there is no current evidence that Tāne Mahuta is infected, kauri dieback still remains a risk in the forest. This is being taken extremely seriously, given the presence of new lesion activity on kauri trees within 60-100m of Tāne Mahuta.
Waipoua Forest has been actively managed against the threat of the disease for many years and continues to be. The Tāne Mahuta site is one of the most well mitigated areas in the country and is protected by boardwalks,
cleaning stations and local iwi ambassadors monitoring and managing the risk of people spreading kauri dieback. There is confidence that the risk of further spread due to human vectors is low.
Every possible option to ensure extensive protection measures around this site of national and cultural significance is being explored.
A significant number of actions have already been implemented or are underway alongside iwi and others to combat kauri dieback in the Waipoua Forest. These include:
Planning and information
- In response to new lesion activity, alongside Te Roroa iwi, DOC are raising the threat levels of kauri dieback in the forest and the area immediately around Tāne Mahuta.
- Reviewing the Tāne Mahuta Response Plan alongside Te Roroa iwi, and updating current plans for managing dieback in the forest.
- Testing, monitoring and pig control is currently being planned and will begin as soon as possible.
- Applying potential new control options based on current research are being investigated within the vicinity of Tāne Mahuta.
- Te Roroa and DOC are using scientists and technical experts to advise on the best options for maintaining protection of Tāne Mahuta and what further mitigation measures can be taken.
- DOC is working with Biosecurity NZ, Te Roroa and stakeholders on applying the latest information to understanding likely spread around Tāne Mahuta and other iconic kauri.
- Te Roroa ambassadors are in place to monitor and educate visitors and ensure people stay on the track and boardwalk.
- It is absolutely critical that people understand they need to stick to the formed tracks and use cleaning facilities – both here and at other kauri forests.
- There has been extensive upgrading of the track systems at Waipoua for many years.
- Since kauri dieback has been identified, DOC has upgraded the Tāne Mahuta track to a full boardwalk and removed the gravel base of the previous old track.
- The Sisters track has been upgraded to a full boardwalk, and the Te Matua Ngahere track has been upgraded. Upgrades to the Yakas track are also planned.
- The Rakau Rangatira project is progressing and will further upgrade and potentially replace the existing infrastructure at Te Matua Ngahere, Four Sisters and Tāne Mahuta tracks.
- The remaining public track system in Waipoua receives ongoing maintenance to be dry and mud free.
Improved cleaning stations
- DOC has trialled various cleaning methods and stations and continues to improve these.
- Extensive testing, monitoring and evaluation of prototype stations has resulted in further improvements.
- A large walk-through, partly-automated cleaning station was installed at Tāne Mahuta last year, which has an observed compliance rate of 98%.
- This is helping ensure that almost every one of the approximately 150,000 people who visit the site every year arrive at the tree – and depart again – with clean footwear.
- A cleaning station was also installed at Te Matua Ngahere (approximately 3km south of Tāne Mahuta) in mid-2016.
- Both cleaning stations consist of multiple footwear cleaning bays and are well sign-posted.
- New cleaning stations are also being installed on busy and high-risk DOC managed tracks in the kauri region.
- The new stations are designed to be easier to use and difficult to avoid. They feature a brush fixed to the base, so people can clean their shoes while holding onto a rail, rather than balancing on one foot holding a scrubbing brush. They also feature a pedal pump to spray disinfectant on to the bottom of footwear.
- Social science research is key in helping us find ways to increase compliance around cleaning footwear and gear and staying on the tracks. We need to help visitors understand what they need to do and why, so we are working on how we can build a ‘social norm’ around staying on the tracks and cleaning footwear and gear every time, when entering or leaving the forest and other kauri zones.
Find out more about cleaning stations here.
Surveys and sampling
- DOC has surveyed all tracks in kauri zones as part of the Kauri Dieback Recreation Project.
- The wider programme, led by Biosecurity NZ, carried out wider aerial surveillance - three million hectares of northern New Zealand.
- The wider programme’s aerial surveillance work has provided an excellent baseline and reaffirmed DOC’s cautionary approach to kauri on public conservation land. DOC treats all areas where kauri is located as potentially contaminated, and implements mitigation measures, re-routes tracks for avoidance, or closes them.
Phosphite trial sites
- Trounson Kauri Park is being used as a test site to develop phosphite injection locations and rates for larger trees (1-3 m trunk width).
- It will also provide a means for estimating injection rates and points for the very large trees, including the three most visited in Waipoua.
- It is possible that phosphite could be used for controlling infection within trees near the larger trees. This work is expected to be completed long before any of the larger trees need injection based on their current state of health.
- DOC ran a pilot pig control operation in Waipoua Forest from June 2016 to June 2017.
- Ground disturbance monitoring occurred at the same time and will occur again in the winter/spring of 2018.
- DOC is developing a pig control plan for Waipoua, based around the work undertaken from June 2016 to June 2017.